Examining the Cleveland Indians Opening Day Starting Rotation

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Since the back-to-back departures of Cy Young Award winning pitchers, Cleveland Indians starters have struggled to find success. With the exception of Fausto Carmona, this year’s opening day starting rotation will be pitching with relative anonymity.  For a young team that has struggled in recent years, this is not necessarily a problem.

The rotation’s success begins with the improvement of Carmona. After his 19-8 season in 2007, Carmona has gone a combined 26-33. This spring, however, Carmona has continued to build on his improvement from the end of the 2010 campaign. Carmona ended the season winning four of his last five games while not surrendering more than three runs in his last seven outings. This spring, he posted a 4-2 record with a 4.50 ERA, solid statistics that should translate to success for the opening day starter.

By Jamie Arkin

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The rest of the rotation remains mostly a question mark. Carlos Corrasco has struggled in previous big league appearances but he was successful last season in Columbus with a record of 10-6. If Corrasco can combine his previous experience in the majors with his success in the minors, he has the arm strength and raw talent to be a solid second starter.

The rotation continues with Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, and Mitch Talbot. All three have extended big league experience, starting 29, 12, and 28 games in the majors in 2010, respectively. All three had an ERA above 4.00, but the experience gained from extended time in the big leagues could be the necessary edge to take the next step.

The lack of a left-handed pitcher may be questionable, but David Huff, the likeliest left-handed starter, struggled far more than any of the right-handed pitchers in major league action last season. In the past several years, the Tribe management has taken getting lefty-on-lefty and righty-on-righty matchups too far in pitching decisions. While matchups are important, debatable moves may have cost the Tribe down the stretch. Acta’s choice to go with experience and numbers over placing a lefty in the lineup is a positive decision. If anyone in the rotation struggles, Huff could use his work in the minors to buoy himself into positive starts for the Indians later in the season.

It isn’t likely that the Tribe will post multiple 15-game winners, and it isn’t likely that this rotation will shock the AL Central this season. But with added experience, the improvement of Carmona, and the high potential of the rest of the rotation, the starters on this team could see success this year.

The improving offense will see a healthy Grady Sizemore, a steadily improving Asdrubal Cabrera, the consistently solid Shin Soo Choo, and the young catcher sensation Carlos Santana near the top of the lineup, so runs are not likely to be the Tribe’s problem this season. With an impressive relief staff and Chris Perez, a budding star, at closer, the starters simply need to be effective enough to keep the Tribe in games in the late innings. The offense and relief staff can keep the pressure off the starters, who won’t need to go 7 or 8 innings deep in most outings. If the starters are effective at keeping games close, Cleveland could pull out more late-inning wins this season.

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